Blogs vs. Mainstream: Who's sloppier?

Sloppiness in a magazine article sparks more blog vs. mainstream debate. Baker argues that operations at mainstream publications can actually contribute to errors.
Stephen Baker

Rebecca MacKinnon is angry with Newsweek over what she calls sloppiness in the recent interview with her about blogs in China. Looks like she has some legitimate beefs. She was not identified correctly.

What I hate about the current climate is that every bit of sloppiness on the part of the media becomes prime evidence in the tiresome ongoing debate between mainstream and the blogs. David Weinberger has his say on the theme.

Since I described last week our laborious editorial process, let me add here that no level of care eliminates errors. We all run corrections on a regular basis.

What's more, a couple thing about the mainstream process, it could be argued, can actually add to errors.

#1) Space constraints. When sources give me a long title (vice president of such-and-such group and general manager of such-and-such division), I'm immediately thinking: That's going to cost me two lines! Real estate is precious on dead trees, which leads reporters to give sources title-ectomies. To be fair we should check with them before amending it. But that brings me to the next point.

#2) Lots of cooks in kitchen. Maybe another editor somewhere in the process will have a go with the title, or with some other piece of the story. Every person who touches a story is supposed to improve it. Many do. But each one can also add mistakes. In our system, the reporter gets has a chance to review stories after editors have been through them. But that's not always the case, especially in newspapers. How many times do you see in the NY Times, "Due to an editing error...?"

These are not excuses. I'm not saying it's OK to make errors, or that we don't make every effort to avoid them. But I think if people in blogs and mainstream better understood how the other side works, there would be more respect going back and forth, and less recriminations.

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